Joy Elkayam, Fashion Editor: Recycled products such as plastic bottles and alike are not new to eco-fashion. But new to me were Vivobarefoot’s new shoes, made of algae. Behind their eco-friendly practices, Vivobarefoot particularly stands out from mainstream shoe companies due to their philosophy to create shoes that mimic the feel of barefeet. This month, I interviewed their founder, Galahad Clark, about their outlook on bare feet, shoes, and algae.
Parvati Magazine: Different from mainstream shoes, Vivobarefoot does not have thick cushiony soles or support. Instead, you create thin and wide soles intended to extend the experience of going barefoot. Why this is better for our health and vitality?
Galahad Clark: Your feet are pretty amazing [pieces of equipment] designed over a couple of million years of evolution. Vivobarefoot shoes allow your feet to do their natural thing. There is no scientific evidence to show that any underfoot technologies enhance foot wellbeing, other than to “support” weak or deformed feet. Strong healthy feet are the foundation of natural pain-free movement – and the best way to get strong feet is to use them as they were designed to be used (i.e. no pitch, no support, no restrictions to natural function).
Your body’s three main systems start in your feet: skeletal, muscular and nervous. Grounded wide big toes make for stable feet. Flexible, dynamic muscles and tendons make for strong feet. Reconnecting your brain with your feet makes for sensory feet. Stable, strong and sensory feet, leading to regular natural pain-free movement is the foundation of health and vitality and the best anti-ageing program known to man!
PMAG: Most people have not experienced wearing shoes like this. What sort of feedback do you get from customers?
GC: We want people to just give their natural feet a try in Vivobarefoot! It’s not about running, just [about] walking around in everyday life. When you do this and build up the use gradually, we constantly get told by customers that have gotten used to wearing ‘barefoot’ shoes they can’t wear anything else! We hear all the time about people’s feet adapting and changing in shape and strength very quickly and then trying to go back to pitched, heeled or padded shoes feeling completely disorienting.
PMAG: In collaboration with Bloom Foam, you created The Ultra III made of algae. Tell us about these unique plant-based shoes and their environmental impact.
GC: Thanks to modern farming and excessive runoff of phosphorous and nitrogen, huge blooms of algae are suffocating waterways all around the world. The Charles River in Massachusetts and a huge ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico have recently been extensively reported in the press.
Algix, the parent company of Bloom, have pioneered a way to ‘harvest’ algae removing this killer from the waterways around the world. And then Bloom, the company in San Diego we are working directly with, have figured out how to take the dried Algae and turn it into foams. First for surfboard tail pads and then my cousin, a fanatic surfer, got in touch with them and said, how about shoes!?
We have pioneered the first fully made shoes out of the Algae based foam and one pair of size 10 Vivobarefoot Ultra III’s returns 50 gallons of fresh water to the world and is also a carbon dioxide sink to the tune of 40 balloons’ [worth of CO2 pulled out of the atmosphere].
Once Nike and Adidas start making all their padded insoles out of bloom (which I hope they will) then the shoe industry will really go a long way to helping to put to good use all this algae killing off our waterways — making a lot of fish very happy!
PMAG: What are some of your favourite shoes for fall weather?
GC: Fall is all about:
● Tracker & Trek for hikes to see the leaves turning.
● Primus Trail Swimrun for the world champs in Sweden (beginning of September) and then the beautiful race in Rheinesburg (near Berlin) at the end of September.
● Primus Hi Viz for commuting as the days become shorter.
● Scott and Gobi Hi (our go to barefoot boots) made out of thick supple Wild Hide leathers for Autumn kick abouts.
● And don’t forget to get your kids in a pair of Vivobarefoot shoes back-to-school so you avoid all the problems we’ve discussed above in the first place!!
Galahad Clark is a seventh generation shoemaker. As a teenager, he spent summer holidays learning the family’s trade. After university, Galahad made “Wu Shoes” with hip-hop trailblazers Wu Tang Clan. In 2003, Galahad took over the eco shoe company Terra Plana and learnt that, “sustainable design is just good design… Products that allow humans and life to flourish on earth.” This led him to realise that Vivobarefoot is what he believes in above all else. Since launching Vivobarefoot in 2012 his focus has been to inspire healthy natural movement and change the world, one pair of feet at a time.